One of the most difficult things about lockdown has not being able to visit my 93 year old mother. She is 94 next week and, because I am now allowed to officially sit in her back garden or at the opposite end of a shared park bench, I will use my virtual ‘half term’ to pay her a visit.
I have mentioned before how proud we are of mum’s adaption to this lockdown life. She hates not seeing people in the flesh, but she has mastered Zoom, FaceTime, webinars and Skype – not with good humour – but she has mastered them. Her honeymoon period with Zoom came to an abrupt end when she was caught napping during her on-line church service. I reassured her that she is not the first person to have had a cheeky snooze in chapel, but she is still mortified at the potential for her snoring to go viral.
Unlike some of us who may sometimes make excuses not to join another zoom quiz because we would really prefer a ridiculously early night and a read of our new novel (‘I’d have loved to join in chaps, but I really need to put the kids to bed. Yes, I know they are adult and not living with me, but their sleep hygiene is shocking’). No, my mother just tells it to people straight; she has ‘better things to do’ – ‘I’m tired of people all talking at the same time, they would be better of tackling a jigsaw or watching ‘Countryfile’.
Sadly we have had to wean mum off jigsaws; they seemed like a good idea at the start of lockdown, but because she refuses to sit at a table to complete each boxed challenge, she has developed ‘jigsaw hip’, spending hours leaning across to her low coffee table at an angle from the luxury of her sofa. Now, admittedly I am not a doctor, so I can only diagnose her condition from Google; I am still hunting down a latin name – let’s settle on Jighipiatis – but my prognosis is that mum may shortly have to back-track on some of the on-line invitations she has turned down.
Mum is an incredibly sociable person and meeting real people is what she has missed most during lockdown. She will not have Boris’ name mentioned since he labelled senior citizens as ‘vulnerable’ and put her in quarantine. Despite ‘jigsaw hip’ she has insisted on a socially distanced walk around her village each day, and even managed to sneak into her church unnoticed, because as a former steward, she still holds her own key. She gave this rebellious church visit a 5* Trip Advisor rating and left the comment, ‘I know I shouldn’t have been here, but I can recommend this church tenfold over Methodist streaming’.
Usually mum makes a weekly batch of biscuits to keep church coffee mornings rolling and to ensure that any of her many, many home visitors have something to accompany the beverage of their choice. When we asked her why she wasn’t finding her lockdown baking tribe, she responded, ‘what’s the point? There is no-one to eat my biscuits and I certainly don’t intend to turn into one of those fatty saddos who blame Covid for their shrinking clothes’. (I find myself breathing in as I listen to her say this on the phone and decide to save my sour dough experience for another time).
You will have heard me mention before that Mum’s biscuit recipe is a national secret. If she really likes you (put in this category grandchildren, great grandchildren and my school friends) she will send you away from a home visit with your own labelled box of biscuits, each pack carefully wrapped in greaseproof paper with a sugar lump to ensure the biscuits don’t go soggy. When my children were younger, the sugar lump rarely got to do its job because it usually disappeared before the biscuits. We don’t mention it, but FD and FS have their grandmother to thank for some unnecessary tooth cavities.
However, as mum has self-furloughed herself on the biscuit making front, I was more than relieved to have her phone me up last week asking how to search for saved recipe ‘cards’ on her computer. It turns out that Favourite Daughter (FD) has been missing ‘grandma’s biscuits’ too and felt the need to cook them as a distant family hug. After a FaceTime catch up with her, FD’s grandmother said she would, ‘ping the recipe over’.
I nearly fell off my chair on hearing this because I have never heard mum reveal her biscuit recipe to anyone (I only know it by heart from years of home practice and many burnt offerings). I certainly did not expect mum to have typed up the winning formula and it takes us a while to track down the recipe on her hard drive; it transpires she has stored it under her own secret algorithm rather than under their trade name ‘Grandma’s Biscuits’. (‘I didn’t want the W.I getting hold of the recipe, dear’.) I am naturally delighted that if anyone is to have this biscuit legacy bequeathed to them, it should be FD, but realise I now have the tricky task of getting her to sign a gagging order – making a mockery of FD trying to eat said biscuits (sorry, couldn’t help myself).
Anyway, as mum approaches her Queenage years and knowing that I am now able to visit her, I can only hope that she returns to the kitchen on a commercial scale. I have a long list of biscuit orders which the family have sent through and we feel it is time mum walked away from her jigsawed virtual life. As – at last – I share a cheeky coffee with the birthday girl I am going to need something biscuity to dunk. I just hope mum won’t notice that my clothes seem to have shrunk during the weeks we have been apart.